NASA has announced that Enceladus has habitable conditions, making it the first known celestial world in the Solar System that can support life apart from Earth.
The US space agency has also released a video explaining that Saturn's icy moon Enceladus has all the basic ingredients for life.
The detection of hydrogen gas in the plumes of Enceladus is suggestive that like Earth, hydrogen is pouring into the Moon's subsurface ocean from hydrothermal activity on the seafloor. The gas warms the water and could provide an energy source for microbial life - some creatures living deep in the Earth's oceans survive in a strikingly similar environment.
NASA researchers said there was no evidence as of yet that organisms existed on Enceladus.
"With this research, we are making a big step forward towards answering the question, 'Is there life out there?'" associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said during the NASA press conference announcing the discovery. INMS was created to sample the upper atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. This plume is correlated with a thermal spot of interest, and if the two are connected, says NASA, it could help shed light on the nature of the moon's activities.
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The probe found the hydrogen when it made its last and closest pass through plumes at Enceladus' south pole on October 28, 2015.
'If we can prove this place where life could exist really does have it, that would be a huge discovery. Scientists have long known about the plumes of water vapor spewing from cracks at the moon's south pole, thanks to Cassini. They concluded that the same kind of "Marsquakes" could also produce hydrogen on Mars, removing a major barrier to life.
"We're pushing the frontiers - we're finding new environments", said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. Sparks and his team are continuing to use Hubble to monitor Europa for additional examples of plume candidates and hope to determine the frequency with which they appear.
Researchers on the Hubble Space Telescope report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter's Europa moon. When Cassini sampled the plume, it found it to be 98 percent water, with the remaining 2 per cent consisting of elements like liquid hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane - and traces of organics.
Both studies are laying the foundation for the Europa Clipper mission, which is slated to launch in the 2020s.
"This finding does not mean that life exists there, but it makes life more plausible and potentially quite abundant if a fraction of the hydrogen is used to drive biology".